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Sing A Sad Song (Just To Turn It Around)

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All Kurt knew about Nathan Jackson before the Zombie Apocalypse was that he was sarcastic, loved The Simpsons, and sang opera like a dream. He’d showed up to Glee Club one day, said, “Last time I was in high school I did a little singing,” and his audition had been a literal tear-jerker (Bring Him Home from Les Mis), but he’d handled the drama (Rachel) for all of two class periods before calling it quits.

And then the Zombie Apocalypse happened.

Kurt hadn’t been able to find his dad or stepmom or Finn, and he thought he’d done pretty all right by himself, grabbing all the ramen and bottled water he could carry and bunking down in the employee restroom at the local Walmart. He stuck it out for a week, terrified to go outside until the sounds of, well, death and destruction stopped. And then he poked his head out the door.

And almost got his face chewed off by a one-armed zombie with way too many teeth.

And then the zombie’s head exploded right in front of him, covering him in blood and gore, and his scream could have shattered glass.

When he finished retching (because he caught some zombie brains in his mouth, or maybe that was just the taste of terror) he straightened up, and there was Nathan Jackson, wearing khaki pants, one of those fisherman vests with the pockets bulging, and holding a shotgun.

Nathan Jackson, when he wasn’t being sarcastic or quoting The Simpsons, was like MacGyver. He’d built an honest-to-goodness underground shelter, complete with a cistern for catching rainwater, and booby-trapped the perimeter with explosives.

“Where did you get all those bombs?” Kurt asked, wary, and Nathan showed him the precise path to take to get to the door unscathed.

“Made ‘em.”

“From what?”

“Fertilizer, powdered sugar, gummy bears, whatever I could get my hands on.”

“Has anyone told you that you’re basically MacGyver?” Kurt asked once they reached the bunk.

Nathan had a propane stove, actual dishes, and a bed. Kurt flopped down on the bed with a happy moan.

“All the time.” Nathan was unimpressed with the compliment. “Look, you want to make yourself useful? You help me find help.”

Kurt looked down at his once-fabulous, now tattered outfit (Nathan had raided the hunting section of Walmart and was rocking the Duck Dynasty chic) and then up at Nathan, who was reloading his shotgun with terrifying competence.

“How can I find you help?”

Nathan showed him a contraption that was the mutant child of a typewriter, a Walkman, and a new-age crystal shop. “This is my radio. You hit each frequency, you read this message, you wait thirty seconds, you read it again. Ten times on each frequency. All day, every day.”

Kurt stared at the headset and microphone likely stolen from one of those super old phones, like on Mary Poppins. “All day, every day?”

“You have a pleasant voice,” Nathan said. “Use it.”

“What will you be doing?” Kurt asked.

“Getting supplies. You know how to use a shotgun?”

Kurt shook his head.

“All right. I’ll teach you how to use all my weapons eventually. But we’ll start with this one.”

Nathan was like a drill sergeant, and Kurt hated being yelled at, but he also didn’t want to die, so he practiced, and while Nathan was out scavenging (the town had emptied out pretty quickly, he said), Kurt sat at the radio, reciting Nathan’s bizarre message and keeping one hand on the shotgun. He said his father and stepmother and step-brother’s names on the air, too. He listed off everyone in New Directions. He even asked about Sue Sylvester. There was never an answer.

Day in, day out, he recited, This is Sierra Gulf One Niner, requesting backup to the following coordinates. Please respond. Over.

When his voice got hoarse, Nathan had honey-water on hand for him (he’d stolen someone’s beehive and kept it topside, brought in fresh honey often). Kurt was allowed out only when Nathan was home, and even then it was to drill the path from the perimeter to the door so Kurt could run it blindfolded or in the dark or practice using Nathan's veritable arsenal of firearms, knives, baseball bats, and hockey sticks.

They were sitting on the front step of their weird little shelter one night, unnerved by the silence, Nathan’s little walkie talkie at his side (it was connected to his radio down below), when Kurt said,

“Are we going to stay here forever? It’s been -” He realized he had no idea what day it was.

“I give us three months here,” Nathan said. “So far it seems like the zombies are ignoring us, have moved on to more populated areas, don’t give a damn about us. If that changes, we move sooner. If, at the three-month mark, no one comes, we’ll relocate to a more strategic spot.”

Kurt looked at him sideways. “You’re not much of a teenager, are you?”

Nathan and Kurt shared the bed, because why sleep on the floor, especially when they needed to be in primo condition to fight zombies, but the one time Kurt tried to kiss him, Nathan had let him down easy, said Kurt wasn’t his type.

“Boys aren’t your type?” Kurt had asked.

“No, they’re not,” Nathan had said, and sounded sad.

Nathan was silent for a moment, and then he said, “No, I’m not very good at being a teenager, am I?”

Kurt shuffled closer to him, and Nathan slung an arm around his shoulders, rubbed his arm to keep him warm.

“You know what I miss?” Kurt asked.

“No.”

“Music. Singing.”

Nathan glanced at him and said, “You should sing, then. On the radio. No one else does.”

Apart from a few rote messages from the National Guard that were useless (Nathan had already checked them out), the airwaves were dead.

So the next day, Kurt did it. He sang. He’d recite his message (he didn’t even need to read the words anymore), and then he’d sing, every solo he’d dreamed about, every lead he’d coveted. He dedicated each song to someone else - his father, his friends, Blaine.

And then he’d move on to the next frequency and sing again.

He’d just finished a very fine rendition of Defying Gravity and was about to switch frequencies when a voice crackled over the radio. A woman.

“This is Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter, Sierra Golf Charlie Niner. Name, rank, and serial number? Over.”

Kurt stared at the radio in disbelief. Then he scrambled for the notebook Nathan had given him, the one with the response in it.

“Jonathan J. O’Neill, Colonel Xerox, sixty-nine, four, one-forty-one,” he said, voice shaking.

“...Duplicate O’Neill?” the woman asked.

“Um, no. My name is Kurt Hummel. I’m friends with this guy, Nathan Jackson. We’re both juniors at William McKinley High School. He’s out doing his MacGyver thing while I radio for help.”

“His name is Nathan Jackson?”

“Yes, uh, ma’am.”

“Sarcastic, likes The Simpsons?”

Kurt’s heart sped up. “Yes, ma’am.”

“Tell - tell Nathan that we’re coming to him. ETA thirty-six hours, over.”

“Yes, ma’am. Um, over.”

“You have a beautiful voice, by the way. Best thing I’ve heard in, well, a long time.”

Kurt’s eyes burned with tears. “Thank you.”

“See you soon, Kurt Hummel. Over and out.”

And the transmission ended.

Kurt collapsed on the desk and cried.

He’d finally managed to calm down and catch his breath ten minutes later when the radio crackled to life again.

“Kurt, is that you?”

Kurt straightened up. “Artie?”

“Kurt, where are you?”

“I - where are you?”

“We’ve been hiding in the basement of the school, with Mr. Schuester and Coach Sylvester. We only managed to get our radio working today.”

Kurt snatched up his walkie. “I’ll send someone to find you.”

“It’s really good to hear your voice. You sound great.”

“Thank you.” Kurt fired up the walkie. “Kurt to Nathan, over.”

There was a pause, and then, “Go for Nathan.”

“I got a hit on the radio.”

“And?”

“Some of New Directions is alive. In the basement of the high school. Can you rescue them?”

“I’ll go check them out.”

Relief flooded Kurt’s limbs. “Thank you. Also - also Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter from Sierra Golf Charlie Niner radioed me. ETA in thirty-six hours.”

“Carter?”

“That’s what she said her name was.”

There was no response.

“Nathan?”

“You did it, Kurt. You found help. I’ll head over to the school, and then I’ll be right home. Over and out.”

Kurt set the walkie aside, scooped up his headphones, tugged the microphone closer, and started cycling through the radio frequencies again, but this time he didn’t bother with Nathan’s message. He just sang.